CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — For the last nine weeks, Tracy Chang’s team at Pagu Restaurant in Cambridge has been part of a nationwide effort, called Off Their Plate, to feed healthcare workers for free.
Their restaurant was the first to help and Chang wanted to make sure it was safe.
“I create the standard operating procedures for restaurants to make these meals, make them safely, get their workers to their workplace safely, etc.,” she said.
Off Their Plate is now in nine cities using Chang’s guidance and, with the help of several organizations, that guidance is available online.
It’s part of the restaurant industry’s push towards reopening.
“Right now, I do believe that we are facing a lot of challenges ahead in terms of reopening as a dine-in restaurant,” Chang said.
Pagu was able to hire back four employees to make the free meals with Off Their Plate. Then the restaurant reopened for take-out and delivery. They now employ seven people.
However, Chang said she realized that moving diners inside her restaurant with restrictions may not be enough to pay the bills and bring back the rest of her staff.
“If you look at what other restaurants in Europe and Asia are faced with in terms of reduced capacity, from an economic standpoint that does not work for restaurants,” she said. “So what we are doing at the moment is we have created a grocery store, a market inside our restaurant, a business inside a business within a business.”
Chang said that continuing within guidelines, even as they are loosened, will be a challenge. That’s why she and others who she has been working with around the world are sharing what they’ve learned.
“It’s time to innovate and be nimble, be positive and be collaborative and share these resources and make sure our neighbors, our friends in other cities are also going to survive this pandemic physically, emotionally, mentally and that their businesses will be there when we come out of this,” Chang said.
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